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The Cauchy problem for the linearised Einstein equation and the Goursat problem for wave equations
(2017)

In this thesis, we study two initial value problems arising in general relativity. The first is the Cauchy problem for the linearised Einstein equation on general globally hyperbolic spacetimes, with smooth and distributional initial data. We extend well-known results by showing that given a solution to the linearised constraint equations of arbitrary real Sobolev regularity, there is a globally defined solution, which is unique up to addition of gauge solutions. Two solutions are considered equivalent if they differ by a gauge solution. Our main result is that the equivalence class of solutions depends continuously on the corre- sponding equivalence class of initial data. We also solve the linearised constraint equations in certain cases and show that there exist arbitrarily irregular (non-gauge) solutions to the linearised Einstein equation on Minkowski spacetime and Kasner spacetime.
In the second part, we study the Goursat problem (the characteristic Cauchy problem) for wave equations. We specify initial data on a smooth compact Cauchy horizon, which is a lightlike hypersurface. This problem has not been studied much, since it is an initial value problem on a non-globally hyperbolic spacetime. Our main result is that given a smooth function on a non-empty, smooth, compact, totally geodesic and non-degenerate Cauchy horizon and a so called admissible linear wave equation, there exists a unique solution that is defined on the globally hyperbolic region and restricts to the given function on the Cauchy horizon. Moreover, the solution depends continuously on the initial data. A linear wave equation is called admissible if the first order part satisfies a certain condition on the Cauchy horizon, for example if it vanishes. Interestingly, both existence of solution and uniqueness are false for general wave equations, as examples show. If we drop the non-degeneracy assumption, examples show that existence of solution fails even for the simplest wave equation. The proof requires precise energy estimates for the wave equation close to the Cauchy horizon. In case the Ricci curvature vanishes on the Cauchy horizon, we show that the energy estimates are strong enough to prove local existence and uniqueness for a class of non-linear wave equations. Our results apply in particular to the Taub-NUT spacetime and the Misner spacetime. It has recently been shown that compact Cauchy horizons in spacetimes satisfying the null energy condition are necessarily smooth and totally geodesic. Our results therefore apply if the spacetime satisfies the null energy condition and the Cauchy horizon is compact and non-degenerate.